Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Gift Ideas for Homeschoolers

Looking for gift ideas for a homeschooling family you know?
Perhaps one of these 10 categories will help.

Or, maybe you have been directed here by a loved one, like your daughter-in-law. {Hi Ma! Just a shout out to my mother-in-law.}

Either way, read on for homeschool gift ideas. All items on the listing have been chosen for their potential educational value.

Books - Always a great place to start for the homeschooling family you know. The possibilities are endless with categories of all sorts to ponder. A few more specific ideas might be
  • classical literature {Some books never go out of style. One online listing of classics is found here.}
  • audio books {Jim Weiss has numerous titles available and his audio CDs are a favorite among homeschoolers.}
  • nonfiction selections {Usborne, DK, and Kingfisher are some publishers to check out.}

Games - Most games have at least some educational value to them.
Movies -
  • classic movies
  • musicals on film
  • documentaries and educational {Some documentaries can become family favorites. I'll readily admit when my oldest was four, he was given two videos, and  I thought, really? However, over the years they have become favorites of all our children. What are they? The Living Desert and Play Along Games and Songs}
  • biographies and true stories
  • Netflix {Don't know which movie would work the best? Give a subscription.}
Toys -
  • building toys
  • marble mazes
  • buildings {Castles and farms are two ideas.} 
  • train sets
  • household toys {Kitchen sets, tea sets, tool sets and the like are fun for younger children.}
  • puzzles {Ravensburger and Melissa & Doug offer great puzzles.}

Science Kits -

Models & Craft Kits -
  • Solar System {for the one who loves the stars - these can usually be found at craft stores and online}
  • Moon {Moon in My Room illuminates the various phases of the moon by remote.}
  • dinosaur bones {for the budding archaeologist - find one here and here}
  • robot kits {find one here and here}
  • transportation vehicles {cars and planes}
  • weaving looms
  • knitting, crocheting, and sewing kits

Memberships - Family memberships can be a gift that keeps giving.
  • museums
  • State parks
  • zoo
  • public gardens

Educational Supplies -
  • globes and maps
  • backpacks {Even homeschoolers cart books to and fro places.}
  • pencils and pens {Most children like stylish pens and pencils, and they make great stocking stuffers.}
  • erasers {Find one in the shape of a favorite character.}
  • posters {Gear it toward their upcoming lessons or interests.}

Technology - In today's age, technology can be a huge blessing. Just be sure to check with the parents for what is acceptable in their family.
  • graphing calculators
  • e-readers
  • digital cameras
  • musical devices
  • cell phones
  • internet access
  • notebooks
  • lap tops

Time - The best gift of all may just be you! Giving of your time and talents will be greatly appreciated by your loved ones.
  • volunteer at the co-op {teach one class, be a guest speaker, help as an assistant even for just one day}
  • field trips {plan one, take the children for a day out, or offer to go along}
  • read with a child {Select some of your personal favorite children's books to share. Read aloud to them, or have them read aloud to you.}
  • bake or cook a meal together
  • tend a garden together {plant, water, weed, harvest, shell peas, or can fresh vegetables}
  • pick fruit together {maybe make jam or juice with the fruit}
  • sew, knit, or crochet
  • build something {A birdhouse, rabbit cage, or mailbox could be a useful construction project.}

No matter what you give this year or in the years to come, your sincere desire to help, support, and encourage a homeschooling family is the greatest gift you can give.


Dorie and her drummer husband, Jerry, began their homeschooling journey over ten years ago. Currently, they home educate four children ranging from early elementary to high school. Dorie can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Should You Join?

Staring at the sign, we couldn't believe it.

Two choices were before us.

Either pay $125 for all six of us to enter the museum and take a guided tour, or
pay $120 to gain admittance for the day with the guided tour and become members for an entire year. Our membership would allow us to revisit anytime over the following year and take select guided tours for free. We would also receive two guest tickets with our membership.

My husband looked at me and said flatly, "We'll save $5 just by becoming members."

"But will we use it?" I asked trying to formulate some counter argument, because I just couldn't believe the pricing.

"I don't care if we ever use it. We'll save $5 by getting it today. Then, if we do want to use the membership, we can. It will already be paid for."

His logic prevailed, and we became members for one year. Over that year, we would visit two more times. On the second and final time, we shared our guest tickets with my parents and took a guided tour with them.

For our family, three visits to this museum over the course of one year for less than the cost of one visit was definitely worth the price.

And, honestly, this wasn't the first time we had gotten such a deal.

We've joined an art museum for a year We timed it to see three special exhibits including Rembrandt and Van Gogh exhibits. Not only did we see the special exhibits at no extra cost, we toured the entire museum of three floors and three wings over the course of that year, one wing at a time.

For several years, we were members of a public garden which we visited throughout the changing seasons. Our children became acquainted with numerous plants and trees, discovering how their appearances changed each season. The garden hosted numerous concerts, fireworks, and cultural events which we attended, because they were free for members.

One year we became members of a science museum. Two visits would have paid for the membership, but we timed our membership to overlap three special exhibits we wanted to see. At this particular museum, members received special pricing for these exhibits. Over that year, we saw some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, artifacts from the Titanic, and learned about espionage in addition to touring the regular exhibits.

A Few Benefits of Becoming a Member
  • If used enough times, a membership can more than pay for itself {you must calculate the cost for your individual family}
  • Special discounts or tours are often included in memberships
  • Sometimes, your family can attend off hours or special hours just for members
  • You can plan your visits and see portions of the facility. You won't have to 'see it all' because you can make multiple trips for the same price.
  • Some memberships are eligible for a tax deduction (Please refer to the specifics of your membership.)

If your family is anything like ours, you don't have an endless supply of money. Where and how you choose to spend it are serious considerations. For each membership, we carefully calculated the financial cost. If we deemed a membership worthwhile, we then researched the best time to join. We want our memberships to be as beneficial as possible. From our experience, I have comprised a brief list of how to select memberships.

How to Choose Where and When to Belong
  1. Know your family's interests. If you love paintings, then an art museum may be a great fit for your family, but if you don't it may torture to have to keep visiting an art museum.
  2. Look ahead in your children's academic lessons. Will you be studying Ancient History? A museum of archaeology and anthropology may be a good fit for that year.
  3. Discover museums in your local area which correspond to your family's interests or your children's academic lessons. Be sure to look for places you will want to visit more than once.
  4. Narrow the choices by eliminating those museums which are too far away or too inconvenient. If your family won't, or isn't able to make the trip during the hours the facility is open, then a membership would be foolish. You'll never use it.
  5. Research those museums or places on your shortened listing. What does each place cost for membership? What are the specific benefits members receive that one-time visitors don't? What is the upcoming exhibit or future show schedule? Is there anything on the calendar which you would want to see or do? Will these visits and events fit into your family calendar? Can you time the membership to view or participate in all the upcoming events you would like to see or do?
  6. Do the math!* I cannot stress this one enough. It still may not be cost effective to join. Perhaps you can visit the museum on a free day, or take advantage of a coupon offer. Sometimes a better deal is available, and a membership is not necessary.
  7. Eliminate the choices which don't work well for your family, and pursue those which do on your own timetable.
*When considering the cost of visiting, include the cost of travel, tolls, parking, and food. Also, if you will want some type of souvenir, include this into your cost as well.

All the photographs featured in this post originally appeared on my personal blog. They highlight a visit to a special event at our local art member. We were privileged to attend for free, not because we were members, but because the event and the museum were free to the community that day. It really does pay to research and calculate the costs.


Dorie and her drummer husband, Jerry, began their homeschooling journey over ten years ago. Currently, they home educate four children ranging from early elementary to high school. Dorie can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Friday, November 29, 2013

To Break or not to Break?

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

This week, the kids and I traveled over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house! Now, we're snuggled up with family, enjoying our time together and eating too much food. I'm forgoing most of the mega deals this year, so no need to brave the Black Friday crowds.

This is the first time, though, that we've gone on a vacation like this and I brought our homeschool stuff with us! *gasp* I know, I know. Usually, I like to take the whole week of Thanksgiving off, or at least only focus on Thanksgiving-related activities.

However, this has been a really rough season for us, health-wise. I was sick for an entire 3 weeks in October, and all 3 of my kids seem to be taking turns getting sick themselves or making each other sick. That's put us way behind in our curriculum.

I'm not really one to obsess over something like that. Correction--I am that type, but I'm learning to overcome that bit of the perfectionist side of me. While I'm not in any hurry to "catch up," I also believe we need to stay on track. So, we're brought a little bit of homeschool with us.

Granted, many of our activities are still Thanksgiving (and starting Monday--Christmas) related--the books we read, the crafts we do, etc. We are still making sure to plunge on in our studies. The girls are enjoying learning about the medieval times and animal habitats in science. In another post, I'll have to share the travel books I made for them, which bits of math, spelling, reading, and history/geography in the form of games! Yes, I'm sneaky like that.

What about you? Do you continue to homeschool through the holidays? Why or why not?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sharing Thanksgiving Traditions

I am a big fan of the last two months of the year. Halloween kicks off an amazing time of year. As a military family, Veterans Day is very important to us, and then Thanksgiving, which leads into the Christmas season. Two months of love, compassion, thankfulness, and remembrance.

Many people think that Thanksgiving gets looked over, but I don't believe that's necessarily true. Although the original reason for celebrating might get lost in translation, its essence is highlighted even more in light of the Christmas season, which seems to come earlier every year. I tend to see Thanksgiving as the kick-off celebration. Christmas is all about Jesus' birth and what he would ultimately do. Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have, thankful for what God has done for us.

The original Thanksgiving was a celebration of a full harvest of food after experiencing a particularly rough winter the year before. Of the men, women, and children who originally arrived on the Mayflower, only about half survived that first went. With the help of Squanto and his fellow Indians, the people learned to plant corn and other crops, to use the local plants, and to hunt/fish. By the time, the next harvest arrived, there was plenty to go around. They then held the feast to celebrate God's provision with their new friends.

Now, we gather together with friends and family for a meal to celebrate our "harvest," whatever that might look like for us. Some years are more bountiful than others, but we always have something to be thankful for, even if it is only the salvation provided by Jesus' death and resurrection.

Being a military family, Thanksgiving looks different every year. We haven't really been able to build too many traditions.

The past few years, though, we've done our thankful leaves. We all write what we are thankful for on leaves cut out of construction paper, and then tape them to the sliding door. The kids seem to have a lot of fun with it, and sometimes it amazes me what they find to be grateful for. There are the typical kids answers like their favorite toy or TV or the like. But, when, without prompting, they say something like Jesus's sacrifice or my family or time with Mommy/Daddy, etc. it just makes my heart melt!

And then there's pumpkin pie and fried turkey. Doesn't seem to matter where we are or who we're celebrating Thanksgiving with, those two items end up on the list somehow. ("Say, have you tried fried turkey--it's just mouth-watering!")

This year, I think I'm going to start a new tradition of having the girls weave our placemats for the big meal. We'll start with construction paper, but maybe when they're older, we'll try some weaving with something else. :)

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Anything fun or unique?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Creating a Unit Study

There are plenty available. Just do a quick search and you are bound to find more than one unit study for the very next topic in your lesson plan. Some will cost you. Some are free.

One of them may just be perfect for you and your family. The topic, lessons, and activities are spot on. It couldn't get any better. After all, the work is done for you. You just have to implement it.

But what about those of us who actually want to plan our own? Maybe customize it completely? How do you plan a unit study?

Today, I'll walk you through a few quick steps to planning your own unit study. These steps will work for almost any unit study, whether it be a multi-subject unit study or a simple history unit.

How to Plan a Unit Study
  1. Pick a topic. Perhaps you'd like to study a time period in history, a specific culture, or science topic. Maybe you would like to build a unit study around a book you will be reading with your children.
  2. Find one main reference book, resource, or website. This resource will serve as a guide or starting point, depending how you choose to use it. Generally, if you want to build a unit study based on a piece of literature, this becomes your reference book.
  3. Create a list of subtopics. Good reference resources can be used to glean subtopics or areas of further study within one main topic. Some can be used as spines for the entire study. Usborne, DK, and other books like them lend themselves well to this usage. Their typical one topic per two page layout easily creates an outline for more in depth study. Unit studies based on literature, might use elements from the plot, characters, setting, and author. For instance, a unit study on Charlotte's Web could include subtopics like farm life, barns, spiders, farm animals, rats, and fairs.
  4. Collect {or create your own} ideas. Find books, projects, activities, and worksheets for each of the subtopics. Be sure to include ideas below, at, and above grade level. Generally, anything can be altered a little, and sometimes you may want an activity to serve as a review or a challenge for your child. In the past, before Pinterest, I used to collect all my ideas in a file. Now, I simply pin the idea onto a board.
  5. Find field trips. List local places and events which could relate to one or more of the subtopics. Check into virtual tours as well. Sometimes it may not be possible to visit a place, but students can 'tour' it through a website.
  6. Outline the order of study. It may seem backwards to place this step so far down the list. However, once you have the details collected, then you can decide which of the subtopics you'll likely spend more time covering or which are more important in the unit study.
  7. Assign a schedule for the unit study. Judging by the ideas you have found or created, you can decide how much time to allow each one. Be sure to keep it flexible and include a few extra days for topics of interest. Children often want to explore a specific topic further. Allow them the freedom to do so, by setting aside extra time.

If you are creating a unit study which is cross curricula, then you will need to pay careful attention to include subtopics, activities, and field trips which are indeed cross curricula. Balance your unit study by finding or creating lessons which include all the areas of study you want to cover.


Dorie and her drummer husband, Jerry, began the homeschooling journey over ten years ago. Currently, they home educate four children ranging from early elementary to high school. Dorie can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Growing Your Homeschool . . . Co-op

Tuesday, the kids and I went to our final day at the homeschool co-op until the spring semester. The girls loved their classes this semester as they embarked on exciting journeys in classes, like World Missions, PE/Health, Backyard Critters, and Art.

Our homeschool co-op has been such a blessing. It is  new co-op, this semester only being it's second program, and we've been involved since the beginning. I even taught a creative writing class this semester (and plan to teach one next semester, along with another class).

These are the ways my family have benefited from attending a homeschool co-op:

1. Meeting new friends: We've only been in Kentucky for about 16 months now, and at the time we started with the co-op, it had only been 7 months. We live outside the city limits, so there are very few opportunities for any of us to make friends, outside of going to church. The homeschool co-op gave us the chance to connect with people who have similar lifestyles and were going through the same things we were.

2. Our homeschool is pretty laid back, so it was a great place for the kids to learn without feeling pressure to "do well." They just had fun, but learned a lot in the process. You should hear the girls talking about the animals they learned about (or got to hold) in their Backyard Critters class, or the ways they can better take care of themselves after a fun Health class.

3. It gives the kids a chance to learn from other teachers. When they grow up, or if they ever go to school,
Mommy will not be their teacher. Other people will not teach the same way I do, and the kids need to realize that. Also, there are things other people can teach with more expertise than I have. What a joy that we can share our strengths with others. For the older kids, I am able to share my knowledge of writing and fiction, helping them to draw on their creativity and life stories.

4. Some weeks, we may not go out otherwise. I don't know when it happened, but at some point I became kind of a homebody. It probably happened when I had two tiny girls, who were practically twins. It made going out to do simple stuff like grocery shopping such a chore. Then, I just got used to being home a lot. The co-op gives me an obligation to get out and do something.

5. Field Trips! We get some great deals either because we're a large group or because we are specifically a homeschool group. Our Field Trip coordinator has awesome ideas. We've been to Dinosaur World, the Creation Museum, a couple of different kinds of farms, visited an Amish community, and just gone to the park to have some fun.

There are many other smaller blessings, but those are the main ones.

Now, am I saying every homeschool family needs to rush out and join/start a homeschool co-op? NO! Co-ops are not for everyone. If you are looking at homeschool co-ops, make sure to find one that fits your family. Although a co-op is a conglomeraation of different types of people/families, some tend to be more formal, some less formal, some focus on academics while others offer "extras" (like sewing, instrument lessons, cooking, etc.). We subscribe to the "a little bit of something or everybody" motto.

*The top photo is the kids with some friends on the last day of co-op. The second is one of the other moms doing a science experiment with soda and mentos... And the last is my family at the Creation Museum, one of the many fun field trips we've done with the co-op.

Monday, November 4, 2013

You Gotta Have Friends

We were five moms seated around two squashed together tables at Panera Bread one Friday evening. All of us, over thirty with multiple children, laughing like teenagers. Each mom had her own story to tell and her own story to live. But for one Friday evening those individual stories intersected in fellowship, friendship, food and fun.

Sharing from our hearts, we encouraged one another in this journey of motherhood and wifehood.

Interestingly enough, that night, the majority of women who gathered homeschool, but not all. Did this leave us at odds, resulting in an educational war? No, of course not. We weren't there to critique each other or compare ourselves to one another. Our hearts were joined in our common roles as mommas and wives. We were there to share, to learn from one another, and be encouraged.

As I returned home, I thought about how long it had been since I had experienced a night like this. Honestly, it had been a long time. Too long. I had needed this evening out with friends.

When the schedule gets demanding, finding time for an outing with other wives and moms can almost be impossible. Yet, it is vital that we try to connect with others in real life.

Having connections online is wonderful. This is not a bash or rant about online support. Honestly, sometimes due to geography or circumstances, the online community is the only support one can have. For those of us with no geographical issues, who are surrounded by other
families within a reasonable driving distance: this post is for us {because some days I need the reminder too}.

We need real life in our face momma friends.

We need another seeing with their very own eyes our mess and lovingly encouraging us anyway.

For you see, we all know we can hide our junk from the online world. We can crop the pic just so, give it the right angle, or change the tone of our words with editing. We can highlight our children's accomplishments, presenting an illusion that they never struggle.

In some ways, I agree with doing all of this. Love covers the mistakes of others. I am not in to publicizing my children's mistakes {Believe me, they make many. They take after me.} And, for the record, I tend to naturally be a positive person. My glass is almost always half full. I know, it is kind of irritating to those half empty glass people.

However, online interactions don't always offer what a IRL (in real life) friend can. IRL friends can tell from the tone of your voice the day you've had. They can see the weariness in your eyes, and come aside you to help. Sometimes, they can offer another perspective, because they have seen the whole situation.

If you don't have any IRL friends, then seek them. Befriend another. You may not 'click' instantly, but don't write them off immediately. We are each part of our own story, but a bigger and better one is written when our stories intertwine. Those other moms/wives are seeking to live their best story too - and that might just be where you find your first common thread.

~ Dorie

Oh, and if you make your way to Panera Bread one evening, try the Autumn Squash soup - delicious!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Can you believe that it's November already? CRAZY! God's really been teaching me something this last week or so.

Procrastination = bad!

It keeps happening. I'm going to write that blog post tomorrow. We'll do that history project tomorrow. We'll clean out the garage tomorrow. Know what happens?

Tomorrow never comes.

Cliche, I know, but it's true. I missed posting the last two weeks, partially due to the fact that I was sick. But also because I kept procrastinating. I'd make plans to write at a later time, but when that time came: "Mommy, I need you," "Honey, I need to run to the store," "Where's my (insert appropriate response)?" Throw in the extreme fatigue and breathing issues I was having--I'd stare at my computer screen, unsure how to prioritize. And then I close the laptop, put everything away, let out a huge sigh and wonder how in the world I will ever get anything done.

Because I do know how to prioritize. God first, family second, everything else below that. And in order to take care of the family, I have to take care of myself.

However, there is also a fine line between valid excuses and true procrastination. Although my excuses make sense, there were times when I wasn't feeling so horrible, when the kids were quietly watching cartoons or coloring, and Ray was at work--and yet, I was so overwhelmed by what needed to be done that I did nothing.

That's not good.

How do we overcome the mountains we perceive as insurmountable? 

Prayer is a biggie. God doesn't give us more than we can handle, but He will give us enough that we need to lean on Him. 

Another gift is that many BIG tasks can be broken down into little tasks and prioritized. This way we can feel good as we tick off each of the littler tasks. 

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Enlisting family can help with the extra little stuff. When stuff starts piling up, let go of the need to do it all by ourselves, and delegate, delegate, delegate.

Avoid procrastinating in the first place! When you stay on top of it all and have things organized, when something comes up, it's much easier to avoid falling behind, or at least so far behind that you just want to stay under the covers.

Take it from me: procrastination = bad. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When They Fail

Last week, I posted about my realization that I need to challenge my girls more and let them fail occasionally.  However, I know how hard it can be to watch your children struggle and/or fail.  So, today, I would like to share some tips I have found for supporting your children when they fail (or are afraid of failing).

1. Pray!!!!!
Prayer should always be your first response to problems (and joys) in your life.  Pray for your child and pray with your child that God will give him the strength to handle the situation.

2. Give your child a hug and reassure him/her with words.
Make sure that your child knows that you love her and will always love her, even when she fails.

3. Allow your child to share his/her feelings about the situation.
Let your child know that it is ok to feel bad about not being able to complete the task.  Encourage him to share feelings verbally or through writing/drawing.

4. Share stories with your child about times you have struggled or failed.
Children need to know that others struggle too and that failure is a part of growing.  They will feel much better about their failures if they know that you sometimes fail too.  You might also want to share with your children how you felt about the failure and how you overcame it.

5. Help your child create a plan for achieving his/her goal.
Sometimes, our children fail at something that we know they can accomplish.  In these cases, they may just need help figuring out a plan for success.  These times are a perfect opportunity to sit down with your child, discuss goal setting, and help her set goals.  Just be sure that your child has dealt with her emotions before attempting this.

Good luck as you help your child work through his/her failures.  As hard as it is for you and for them, remember the benefits that come from failure!

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5) and is expecting #3 soon.  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homeschooling Can Be Cheap

Today, we are so excited to welcome a guest post from Christa, who blogs at !

One of the comments that scared me when I was considering homeschooling was, “It’s not always cheap…” That’s not really something that a stay at home mom who just had her third child wants to hear. 

After registering with an umbrella school, buying curriculum, supplies, and everything else that you think that you need to homeschool, I can see why people shy away from it.  Since I was a public school teacher for 8 years I set out to prove that I could homeschool my soon to be Kindergartener for next to nothing and have a great time doing it.  Using creative solutions can get you on the path to saving big bucks when it comes to homeschooling.   Here are some tips for those wanting to homeschool on the cheap:

1.     Register directly with your school board.  
It doesn’t cost a cent to register and you may have more freedom with your curriculum.  

2.     Get to know a teacher or someone who does.  
Teachers throw out books, curriculum, and resources every spring and most are more than happy to pass it on rather than throw it out.  I have a whole guest bedroom full of curriculum, resources, manipulatives, games, and even dramatic play toys that teachers have passed along to me.

3.     Pinterest and other great sites 
These can be a homeschooler’s best friends.  There are countless FREE material and resources that can provide anything that you need.

4.     Follow a teacher blog or website.  
If you haven’t purchased a curriculum you may be worried that your child isn’t getting all of the skills that they need.  I look for a few top-notch teachers who are keeping their parents and audience informed about the skills that they are teaching.  I have found many of these teachers through my hometown’s magnet school website.  Their newsletters keep me informed of what is being expected of children and has been a tremendous aid in my curriculum planning.

5.     Use your local library.  
I usually have a different theme that I study each week.  Just type the subject into your library’s card catalog and you will have a wealth of books to go along with your lessons.  I couldn’t live without the library!

6.     Plan, plan, and plan!  
Like any money saving strategy it does take some planning on your part.  I set up about 30 min. a day to plan.  I try to do one subject a day to get ready for the next week.  This way I am not spending all my time on the weekend planning.  You also may want to set up a school supply budget for each month because sometimes it is easy to go overboard!

If homeschooling is calling to you and your family, don’t allow the cost to scare you away.  Homeschooling may even add to your family coffer.  I started homeschooling last year and am actually making money this year by opening a cottage school.  I have created a place where local families bring their children 1-2 days a week for lessons.  So that means that I am actually getting paid to homeschool this year!  How cool is that?

Christa Brown is a homeschooling mom and founder of the Little Log Cottage School.  Her blog at  is where she provides information about her lessons, techniques, and tips for homeschooling families and teachers. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Camping Weekend

Up until recently, I hadn't really let the girls get involved in anything outside of church and our homeschool co-op. It isn't that I didn't want them to get out, but was an issue of time, money, or some other obstacle. Finally, though, the girls joined American Heritage Girls. For those who are unfamiliar with this organization, it's an alternative to Girl Scouts. AHG is "dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country." (as quoted from their website)

This weekend is their annual big camp out.

Now, I haven't been camping since I was like 13. On top of that, I don't like the outdoors and it doesn't particularly like me either (I'm allergic to everything. Seriously. I need a bubble.). What a joy that I have a wonderful hubby who is happy to take the girls for me!

So, today I'm busy getting them ready for the big camp out. But what do I know about it? I had to ask several embarrassing questions last night at our weekly meeting. Thankfully, they leaders were well versed in camping (they should be, apparently they've been involved in boy scouts for years).

The girls are practically bouncing off the walls. They are so excited. Of course, half the excitement is all the new "stuff" they got out of the deal. New long johns (it's supposed to be in the low 30s at night), flashlights, a tent, and some other misc. necessities.

I'm glad they are getting this opportunity, though. It's not likely one hubby and I might have done otherwise. Over the weekend, they'll learn about camp, fire, and knife safety; do some crafts and cooking; tour the water treatment facility; and just have fun!

Have you taken your kids camping? Do they belong to any groups that may go?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Did I Underestimate Her?

Charlotte celebrated her third birthday a few weeks ago.  One of the gifts she received was a 48 piece Minnie Mouse floor puzzle.  When I saw it, I almost laughed.  I told my husband that it would be a long time before Charlotte was ready for that puzzle.  She had been working on 12-15 piece puzzles. Occasionally, she put together a 24-piece puzzle.  But, 48 pieces is twice that much.  I was sure that Charlotte was not ready for such a big challenge.

However, Charlotte REALLY wanted to try putting together the puzzle and I could not dissuade her from trying.  So, I pulled it out of the closet and let her try.  I sat next to her while she worked, thinking that she was going to need a LOT of help from me.  But, to my surprise, I was wrong.  Charlotte worked diligently for about an hour and a half and this was the result:

Yes, she put the entire 48-piece puzzle together all by herself!  And, she has done it several times since.  I am so proud of her.  

But, I am also a little disappointed in myself and my teaching.  I keep thinking that I have been working so hard to ensure her success and have forgotten the importance of challenging her.  

Charlotte has such an inquiring mind and she is so eager to learn.  She LOVES a challenge and is very persistent at her work when I give her something difficult to complete.  

Back when I was a teacher, I learned that most young children have those qualities, at least until they are trained that failure is not ok.  Then, they stop liking challenges because they are afraid of failure.  I don't want that to happen to my children.  I want them to always love learning and seek out new challenges that will help them grow as people.  So, I am working hard to not underestimate my children's skills.  I am making a conscious effort to challenge them both daily and providing them a safe environment and support when they fail.  

It breaks my heart a little when they don't succeed, but I am quickly seeing that it bothers me more than it bothers them.  And, every day, it is obvious to me that they are looking forward to the challenges ahead of them.  And, that makes me smile!

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5) and is expecting #3 soon.  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Round-Up of Autumn Ideas from Our Contributors

At Growing Your Homeschool, we are so blessed to have some fabulous bloggers with fantastic ideas for teaching our children.  Today, I have a round-up of autumn-themed, Halloween, and Thanksgiving teaching ideas that our bloggers have posted on their personal blogs.  Go check them out!




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's Bittersweet

Abigail (kindergarten) has recently started reading.  Her progress has been very rapid and, every day, I am impressed by how quickly she is learning to read.  And, I am SO excited for her!  

However, these past few weeks, a bit of sadness has invaded my joy.  I keep thinking about the fact that Abigail will soon be able to read bigger books on her own.

Before I know it, she is not going to need me to read to her.  She will be able to read whatever she wants without any help.

Our times of cuddling on the couch and reading a book together will soon be over.  

Sometime in the next few years, she is going to ask me to stop reading bedtime stories to her.

She is growing up and it makes me sad!  I suppose that I will have this feeling countless times as a parent.  But for now, I am so thankful that I get to watch her learn every day and am trying hard to cherish the moments now because I know they won't last long!

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5) and is expecting #3 soon.  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When YOU are too Sick to Teach

It's that time of year again. Allergies, colds, and flus, oh my! This past week, we've all taken turns fighting off a lovely cold and stomach bug. Just as the kids were getting better, of course, I came down with it. Due to their illness last week, we're already a couple of days behind in our Sonlight curriculum, but now that I'm sick? We're going to end up a whole week behind! Time to panic.

Or not.

We all know that one of the perks of homeschooling is that we get to work at our own pace. The other is that we can take advantage of other learning opportunities! So what if we're sick? So what if they're sick? We may not be able to sit at the table and pour over projects and books, but that's okay.

What can we do if WE are not able to teach?

* Netflix/DVDs--While I'm definitely not an advocate of letting the TV babysit your kids on a daily basis, every once in awhile it isn't going to hurt them. And with DVDs and programs like Netflix, you have control over what they watch. There are plenty of educational cartoons, documentaries, etc. And I'll bet we can find a show that relates to something we're studying.

*Books--Whether they snuggle with you or find their own little corner, books open other worlds. Fiction, non-fiction, picture books--they all have potential for learning. Keep a fresh stash from the library, add to your own library regularly, maybe even keep a few "new" ones back for special occasions like this.

*Games--Board games, card games, video games, etc. Each has their own educational benefits (or CAN have their own benefits). Some require adult supervision, some don't. Some can be played with other siblings, some are solitary. We can invest in games and have our own arsenal to dive into when need be.

*Let them be the teacher--If you're well enough to sit up on the couch (or lay on the couch even), let them tell you about what they've been learning. They say mastery comes when they can teach someone else. Let them explain their math problems, talk about their science experiments, etc. You may not be moving forward, but it does reinforce previous teaching. 

*Call on family--The other day, I literally could not get out of bed, couldn't stay awake, but my husband had to go to work. We are blessed to (finally) be near family, so hubby called up my mother-in-law and asked her to take the kids. Now, I know they didn't really do anything "educational" that day, but I know that the kids got out and had a good time with their grandmother. I also know that in the past they have done educational things like visiting parks, baking/cooking together, etc. 

*Learn through play--With any child, but especially with young children, they learn as much through play as they do from regulated school work. So don't be afraid to turn them loose outside or in their playroom/bedroom to just enjoy a day off. 

So, don't panic if illness steals a few days. Remember that half the joy of the home school journey is to train well-rounded children. Curriculum isn't the end all, be all of training and learning. Diversity definitely has its place.

What do you do when you're too sick to teach?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Do I Have to Stick to the Curriculum?

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who is a new homeschooler.  Due to being new at homeschooling and not having a teaching background, she has chosen to use a boxed curriculum this year (which I think was a fantastic choice for her and for many people, so please don't think that I am criticizing curriculums).  

My friend expressed to me her concern that getting her daughter to do the reading work included in the curriculum was a huge challenge every day.  Each day, her daughter asks her if she can read some early readers they have on the shelf instead.  My friend had been saying "no" because she believed she must follow the curriculum, but she wanted advice on what to do.  

My response was to ask her what her reading goals are for her daughter.  As I expected, her goals are for her daughter to become a proficient reader and to enjoy reading.  So, my response was "who cares what she is reading as long as she is reading?  If the early readers on your shelf are more interesting to her than the curriculum reading passages, have her read those instead (or do a combination of both)."

In my house, I have 4 sets of early readers and a Dick and Jane bound collection.  Before the school year started, I had carefully chosen which books we were going to read and in what order.  I had even made worksheets and writing prompts to go with each story.  However, Abigail (kindergarten) quickly changed those plans when she begged for me to purchase some early readers she saw at the local book store and wanted to read Dick and Jane (which I had not planned for).  Now, I give her options for her main readings each week.  I choose two or three little books or Dick and Jane stories that are at her reading level and let her choose which one she prefers.  Reading is often her favorite part of our school day and she has is making very fast progress in her reading skills.

While having a curriculum is wonderful, we, as the teachers of our children, should not feel bound by them.  We have the freedom to change the curriculum, add to it, delete parts, or completely change the curriculums we are using.  Our curriculums should be a guide for our teaching, but not our teaching bibles!

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5).  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Return of Ralene

Greetings fellow homeschooling mamas!

I have returned. If you have been with GYH since the beginning, you'll already know that I was one of the founding members. I had to take my leave about 18 months ago when life got pretty hectic. So, let me catch you up.

Last I was on here, my family and I were living in Hawaii, my husband was in the military, and we were embarking on our Kindergarten year of homeschool.

Life now . . .

My husband had some medical issues and was discharged over a year ago. Acclimating to civilian life has not been easy. We moved back to the states, settling in Kentucky, close to family.

I am still writing fiction, but I also started my own freelance editing business at the beginning of this year. You can find out more about that on my website. I have a few spots available if you're looking! *wink* The extra money allowed me to pay for some classes and to attend a couple of writing conferences in the last year.

And of course, there's homeschool. This year, the girls are in second grade. In the past, I've kind of picked out different curriculum for each subject. With the new business and the adapting to civilian life, though, we decided to go with Sonlight curriculum this year. So far, we are loving it!

For those who don't know, Sonlight is a Christian, literacy-based curriculum, which draws a lot from the Charlotte Mason style of learning. The girls love the books, and we have such fun discussions.

I did choose to keep some of our old choices because the girls were doing so well, So, we continued with Math-U-See, All About Spelling/Readnig, and We Choose Virtues.

We also finally joined a homeschool co-op. It's fairly new, having just started last spring, but it's a great group of local families. I'm even teaching a Creative Writing course to middle and high school students.

I'm sure you're curious about the kids:

Alley Cat is a 7-year-old artist. She would do nothing but draw and write stories all day if we'd let her. She loves the color purple, unicorns, cats, and her favorite subject is history. I think. She's in second grade. We just recently started speech therapy at home with her. We're not quite sure where her speech development delays come from, but it's to the point where she needs the extra help. Since we were unable to afford a professional, I've bought the Super Star Speech, which was written by a speech pathologist for homeschool families. She needs nothing more than for someone to sit with her and draw/color to be happy.

Squealer is a 6-year-old spitfire. She's all giggles and drama. She has such a heart for caring for others--she loves helping me with chores and taking care of her younger brother. While she likes to draw as well, she'd rather sing and dance around. She loves reading, and is reading well above her age. She's in second grade this year, along with her older sister, and keeps up just fine. Our biggest issue with her is reminding her that she is not the mommy. Her favorite color is pink, and she loves dogs and Hello Kitty. I'm not sure she has a favorite subject, but like I said, she loves to read!

Growler is only 3, but he thinks he rules the house. We're working on that. lol ... He's a lot of fun, though. He likes to sit in on school sometimes and "help" teach. He's known his letter since he was 2 and can already count to 20. I've thought about trying to do more pre-school stuff with him, but really can't get him to sit down for longer than 5 minutes. So, I'm content to just let him learn as he goes. Right now, we're working on listening the first time and potty training. His favorite color is green, and he loves video games (thanks, Daddy), especially Mario.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Miss My Kids!

Yesterday, I was reading a friend's blog.  She shared her personal goals for this month and one of them is to spend more time with her family.  She made the point that homeschooling is not the same as spending "quality family time".  I agree!  Sometimes, after a busy week, the thought that goes through my head is "I miss my kids!"  Since I homeschool and spend all day with them, that might seem strange.  But teaching them and shuttling them from one activity to another is not quality time!  

Today, I have decided to share a few ideas for how we ensure quality family time in the midst of our busy lives.

1. Put it on your calendar.
I schedule at least one "date" with each of my girls each week.  Some of our dates are big outings and others are small.  Sometimes, we go out for lunch or ice cream.  We might also do a special cooking or art project together at home.  The important thing is not what you do, just that you have special 1:1 time together.  My husband also schedules "dates" with the girls and those "dates" are often the highlight of his week (and theirs).  

2. Incorporate your children into your daily household work.
While it will take MUCH longer to have "help" cooking dinner or doing laundry, your daily chores often provide a great time for spending time with your children.  I cannot count the laughs and giggles that I have had with my girls while we baked a cake together (and spilled flour all over the flour) or attempted to fold a fitted sheet together.  

3. Refocus your priorities.  
Sometimes, we overextend ourselves and take on too many commitments.  The end result is often that our family suffers.  When I begin missing my children and feeling that I don't get quality time with them, I often have to take a close look at my calendar and think about where my time is going.  While it is good for me to be involved in church, volunteer activities, etc., some of these things might not be the most important uses of my time during this season of my life.  I recently read in my bible study that "all things good are not from God."  Just because it is a good activity that serves God's overall purpose, does not automatically mean that God intends for you to do it.

4. Ask for help.
There are times when are lives are so busy with unavoidable commitments that we truly can't add anything else to our schedule.  When this happens, we need to ask for help from spouses, friends, family, fellow Christians, etc.  It is okay to ask for help!

5. Pray.
I don't have all the answers and neither do you.  But, the great news is that God does.  Get down on your knees and pray.  God will help you find the solution!

What other suggestions do you have for ensuring quality time with your family?

Marla is a former special education teacher and homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 3 and 5).  She has her PhD in Special Education and loves to put her knowledge to use teaching her children and sharing learning/teaching ideas.  She blogs about raising and teaching her children at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Monday, September 30, 2013

GYH Autumn Post Round-Up

Now that fall is officially here and Halloween is only a few weeks away (and Thanksgiving will be coming not long after that), many of us are trying to come up with fun and creative ways for including the season into our homeschools.  So, here is a round-up of ideas that we have shared here at Growing Your Homeschool over the past few years:

What autumn, Halloween, or Thanksgiving activities do you have planned in your homeschool?  Please share your related blog posts in the comments below.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...